Without ‘Men,’ is Charlie Sheen winning or losing?

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Consider two parallel universes: Charlie Sheen is destined to hit rock bottom after being fired from the best job he’ll ever have; Charlie Sheen has been freed to blaze a new path to dazzling fame and riches.

Speculation about the dueling scenarios swelled after Warner Bros. Television said Monday that Sheen’s services on “Two and a Half Men” had been terminated, effective immediately, following careful consideration.

The studio said it’s yet to decide the fate of TV’s top-rated comedy which, under protest from Sheen, halted production for the season to allow the hard-partying actor to seek treatment for acknowledged drug use.

During his bitter tug-of-war with the studio, attention focused on whether he was on the verge of killing his career. Imperiling a hit show and a job that paid a reported $1.8 million an episode _ or earning him north of $43 million a year _ must be Sheen’s undoing, some observers said.

Not so fast, say others.

“At this point, all bets are off regarding where his career goes from here,” said Paul Levinson, a Fordham University media professor. “Although nothing is certain where fame and celebrity are concerned, Sheen’s ubiquity in the past few weeks suggests that he could indeed go on to become a bigger superstar than (the sitcom) could ever had made him.”

Opportunity already may have come knocking.

Sheen, 45, met with executives at Live Nation Entertainment on Monday and is considering a series of stage shows, celebrity website RadarOnline said. The concert promotion company declined to comment Tuesday.

The road beckoned another performer who clashed publicly with his employer: Conan O’Brien went on a nationwide concert tour after exiting NBC’s “Tonight” over network plans to move the show.

Sheen also intends to sell a line of merchandise, including T-shirts, hats and mugs, emblazoned with his catch phrases, the website said. It’s aimed at displacing what he called the “posers and bootleggers” making money off “Winning,” “Adonis DNA” and his other memorable utterances, RadarOnline reported.

Before Sheen’s firing, billionaire Mark Cuban said he’d contacted him about collaborating on a project that Cuban called a unique opportunity but declined to detail. It would let the actor “be himself and have some fun,” Cuban, who owns the HDNet cable network, told ESPN.

As comedian Norm MacDonald tweeted before Sheen was kicked off “Men”: “I pray that someone can help (at sign) CharlieSheen before he becomes even more successful, richer and happier.”

In texts to The Associated Press after Warner’s decision, Sheen dismissed his bosses with the F-word, saying “they lose” and calling them “trolls.” Asked if he planned to sue, Sheen texted back: “Big.” As for his next move, Sheen texted, “A big one.”

A call to his attorney, Marty Singer, for comment was not returned Monday. CBS declined to comment.

The firing capped a rarely open, raging battle between a Hollywood star and those who employ him, with Sheen claiming the right to live as he pleased _ including the acknowledged use of illegal drugs, although he’s said he is currently clean _ as long as he showed up sober and ready to work.

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